Friday, November 30, 2007


I went to a hockey game last night. I was invited by a friend whose company has a private box. Needless to say, the private box was spectacular. Food, wine, careful attention to our every need.

I'm not much of a hockey fan -- but sometimes it is fun to go and experience life on the other side of opulence. That rich, phat place where anything is made possible by the unlimited supply of the coin that fuels our economy.

Quite the polar opposite of the environment at the Drop-In. That place where there isn't enough money in the world to mend the broken psyches of those who have fallen so completely on the road of life.

Money doesn't heal addictions. Money doesn't mend broken spirits.

Only people can do that.And for those who have lost their footing on the cold hard pavement of the facts of life with no coin, money has no value except to buy you more of the poison that flows into your veins with the incessant monotony of a tap that will not quit dripping.

At a couple of points last night, two players whipped off their protective gear and got to the business of pummeling each other out. The fans went berserk. Screaming. Hollering. Yelling. Cheering the pugilists on, the crowd rose as one. Arms punched the air. Feet stomped the concrete concourse. The arena went wild.

I've seen behaviour like that at the shelter where I work. Two men duke it out. A crowd gathers goading them on. Mayhem ensues for a short while until staff quickly step in and pull them apart.

In the hockey arena, the referees step back and wait and then enter the fray only after an appropriate time has passed when they consider the crowd's hunger for the drama unfolding on the ice has been satiated. The players are sent to individual boxes to cool it off. When their time is up, they get back on the ice and go at it again, confident that their untempered display of aggression will be rewarded by the crowd should they go at it again.

Sometimes, at the Drop-In the police are called and the fighters are arrested and sent to individual cells to serve their time, until such time as they are released to go at it again. They have no confidence it won't happen again. Theirs is a violent world. A world in which the only thing they carry is their attitude and the aggression they hold up like a shield to fend off anyone who dares to question their right to go at it again.

There's a world of difference between the men who got out on the ice and fought last night, and the men who fight in the real, hard world of getting by day by day in a shelter. Two separate worlds. Same humans.

In one, the human beings are compelled by their nature to assert dominance in the field, on the ice, in the arena of life where their actions become part of the excitement that fuels the game. In the other, the men are acting out the same drive to be dominant, to protect whatever turf they can mark, to defend their position -- right or wrong. They are morally condemned by the same world that condones fighting in the hockey arena as a socially acceptable tradition of men being men. One ends up in the penalty box and earns a million bucks. The other ends up in an 8x8 cell and earns a record that's criminal. Go figure.

The question is: Where on earth do we get off on rewarding fights in the arena and penalizing those who fight in the arena of life where every toehold is a hard won battle of spirit over the drive to numb the pain of living on the edge of desperation?

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